33. 3D Printers


3D printing enables the production of complex designs and shapes. Initial limits of 3D printing have been pushed back, both in the size of the objects to be produced and in the materials used (stainless steel, plastic, glass, metal, concrete, eco-materials, etc.). However, despite these advancements, the technology still faces significant challenges, including high costs, low printing speed, limited part sizes, and strength.


The European 3D Printing Market was valued at USD 4.61 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 10.12 billion by 2026. The highest demand in Europe comes from small and medium-sized businesses that are in need of high-speed, reliable and low-cost prototypes. This concerns numerous sectors, particularly automotive, healthcare, aerospace and defence.

Challenges and opportunities for DSOs

  • 3D printing allows the production of small series of parts that are no longer manufactured in order to extend the life of devices, starting with rather simple devices and gradually moving to more complex ones (e.g., replacing first a hinge or a cabinet door, and later a part of an MV breaker).
  • 3D printers would allow, among other things, the creation of several prototypes of equipment prior to their mass production.
  • Advanced 3D printing of IoT devices and embedded sensors would entail the creation of parts and products with embedded electronics.

EDSO Considerations

  • The solutions offered by 3D printers could contribute to the objectives of reducing the environmental footprint of DSOs by facilitating repair and reuse approaches.
  • DSOs must follow technological developments related to 3D printers in order to make the most of these advances and improve their operational performance.
  • The viability of industrial 3D printing technologies on specific use cases has yet to be validated.

Last update: 28 September 2023